First off, I am NOT an expert by any means. But....I made 5 batches of soap yesterday, and I have some pretty strong feelings about molds. I wish I had found somewhere that laid the various types out, with pros and cons, so that I could have made smart decisions.....but I can't, so - you're stuck with me and my opinions. :lol:
When I started my soaping adventure, I started with Melt & Pour. MP soap is easy-peasy - you buy unscented/uncolored base, cut it up, nuke it to melt it, add colors/scents, and pour it into pretty molds. I was afraid to mess with lye, so this seemed the best way to go. Not knowing any better, my first mold purchase was a Kelsi 9-bar divided mold (I don't have links, but you can google any of these - they're still in business - if you're interested). I didn't know that MP soap isn't made in bars - and the mold I got couldn't be used with MP (it sticks. Bad). :sigh: I figured it out when I read the instructions - and I went back and bought "specialized" MP molds. (I bought MilkyWay molds, which can be used for either MP or Cold Process. They're not cheap, though! And I haven't used them for CP soap, because I'm afraid the soap will stick in the fancy designs).
My very first batch I didn't use a mold at all - I did the popular "goldfish in a bag" soap. Clear MP, scented with Ocean....you get a small cello bag, fill it about 1/4 full and let it set a few minutes, then pop in a cheap plastic goldfish (from Oriental Trading), and fill it up to about 1/4 from the top. Wrap with a twistie, and voila! Goldfish in a bag!
The problem with MP is that it isn't cheap. Not when your entire extended family decides *your* soap is the best thing since sliced bread....:lol: It is easy though, and you don't have to worry about dealing with the lye (which isn't as scary as I had thought)
So, when the goats started producing more than we could drink, I took the plunge and started making CP soap. Aubrey was nice enough to hold my hand - she suggested using a shoe box as a mold, lined with a plastic garbage bag. This works - IF you're more talented in smoothing a garbage bag than I am. My soap had...texture. :lol: I moved to traditional wood molds...but have been plagued with lining issues (I HATE lining molds!) - if you don't line a wood mold, the soap sticks.
Anyway, let me break it down for you:
PVC pipe: Pros: Cheap-ish, no need for lining. 18" is about the longest you can handle. They're easy to make - cut the pipe (I use 2"), put a black rubber cap on one end, and put a threaded receiver on the other. Get a screw-on cap for that end, and you're good to go. Cons: Hard to un-mold. If you put a valve on the screw cap, you can attach an air compressor/pump to it and the soap will slide right out. The soap is round...which is hard to hold onto until you've used it a bit. It's also hard to label (coffee filters work) - but that's only a concern if you're going to sell. I use PVC for my shaving soaps and shampoo bars. (FYI - an 18", 2" diameter PVC pipe mold will hold a recipe with 32 oz of oils.)
Wood molds: Pros: Cheap, and easy to DIY. Insulates the soap, and are easy to move with raw soap batter inside. Cons: Must be lined.
Liners: I've tried almost everything suggested. Here we go:
Plastic grocery bags - Work if you trim them. Might leak at the edges. Hard to get in the mold so there's no wrinkles. Has to be peeled off the soap log.
Garbage bags - Work in you're using a slab mold (think cereal box as opposed to a bread pan - I prefer the loaf-type molds. They make a log of soap 1 bar in size, and 8+ in length. Slab molds make soap 1 bar thick, and 9+ bars....or, since this is easier to visualize, - 1 bar thick, 3 logs (or more) wide). Again, hard to get perfectly smooth. They peel off the soap easier than grocery bags, but still can texturize the bars if you don't get it smooth.
Freezer paper - must be cut to fit. Leaks on the edges (or, they did for me). Has to be peeled off the bar - and sometimes the soap sticks.
Parchment paper - worse than freezer paper, and tends to rip when you're trying to peel it off the soap.
Lexan/Plexiglass - This showed promise. However....it's hard to cut - we kept breaking it while trying to cut it to the proper size. The cut edges are *sharp*. Leaks, unless you tape the corners with duct tape - which then makes it hard to unmold. Some batches of soap stuck, some didn't - and there was never any reason I could see as to *why*. It was also kind of pricey.
Plastic/Mylar - Some soapers use the quilter's mylar - I didn't. I did use cheap plastic cutting boards - same basic stuff, just a little thicker. Easy to cut...leaked. It also stuck to the soap, and gave the bottoms a kinda funky texture. I didn't try duct tape on the corners, because of the sticking issue.
Craft foam - I have a love/hate relationship with this stuff. I want to *love* it - it's cheap, it's not too sticky (usually), but......I've found it's only good for 1 or 2 uses, then it starts warping and my logs come out with funky, wavy sides. Some logs stick, some logs get a funky texture on the bottom.....I just...I dunno. Out of all my hand-made liners, these came out on top, but the issues I've had make me hate it. I had to re-do my wooden boxes to take into account the thickness of the foam liner...and the liners won't come out of the box easily when filled with soap....which makes for dings on the top of the bars if we're not careful. It does peel away from the sides easily, but the bottom of the logs still tend to stick - I have to push on the bottom of the liner to get it to pop out.
Silicone caulk - this is THE one I really, really wanted to use. It sounded perfect - use silicone bathroom caulk to "line" the wooden mold, and my days of lining would be *over*. Only....you have to get a perfectly smooth finish on it for the soap to release perfectly, and that's hard. It's also not that cheap - 1 tube (plus the gun) was about $6 - but it only did 2 molds. (And I use small molds!) I tried 2 ways - the first mold I applied the silicone *after* the mold was assembled; the 2nd one I applied before. Neither way was perfect; the assembled mold was hard to get smooth, the unassembled one was easier, but I had to go back and caulk the seams when it was assembled. I figured out that if I applied the caulk, then went back and smoothed it with wet fingers I got a smoother finish - but still not perfect. Now, the soap releases a LOT better than anything else I've tried....but. (There's always a "but", isn't there?)....not all the time. Most of the time it just takes a few thumps on the bottom of the mold from a rubber mallet; sometimes, however, I have to dis-assemble the mold to get it out. Still - no more tedious lining before soaping. However, if I had to dis-assemble the mold, then I have to re-caulk the corners or it'll leak. :sigh:
But. Still not happy - I want something that the soap just falls out of. So I took the plunge and bought a "cheap" silicone mold off of eBay. (I don't really think $40 is "cheap" but considering what I've paid for all the other stuff I've tried.....I would have saved $$$ by doing this from the beginning.) This mold is GREAT - the soap releases easily, the edges are perfect, the sides are perfectly straight....and it claims you don't need a wooden box! (SimplySuperMolds is the seller...the mold is Korean, I think, but shipped from IL.)
Well...not really. The mold makes square bars, as opposed to rectangular ones. Odd, but livable. If you don't put the lid on it, the sides *will* bow out....so I plopped the mold into my old soap cutter box. (I know the lid will get lost soon....it's inevitable. :lol:) There was NO sticking, no weird texture.....I just wish it were a bit longer - I got 9 1" wide bars out of it. Still....not bad for the price. We'll be making a real box for it soon, though. It appears to be pretty sturdy - the sides are approx. 1/4" thick, and there was no wobble at all when I moved it (with the lid on) into the cutter box. THIS is the mold I'll be using for my "Just Soap" - plain soap, no color, no scent. The odd size will make them stand out so I know the bars are for my chemically-sensitive friends. (FYI - this mold, the "M" one, holds a recipe that uses 32 oz of oil - and it fills it To The Top.)
SG did tell me to buy a "real" mold...so I ordered a Woodfields one. It's supposed to make 15 1" bars - wooden mold with a silicone liner. We've been talking..."real" molds aren't cheap. The liners are about $30 cheaper than the whole thing....we're thinking about buying some and making the boxes ourselves. The liners are more costly than the eBay one....but they're also the "standard" CP soap size....which might make a difference when I start selling "for real". I want to try an Uplands mold - they're about half the price of Woodfields...but I can't find any real reviews on them. Oh, there's a lot of people saying they LOVE them, but not *why* (Woodfields reviews are good - they say *why* they like them) - granted, the only complaints I found were slow shipping and lack of communication......but no one spells out WHY they like them so much. We'll see.....
I'm trying to get stuff together for when I'm a SAHM.....and won't have the funds to "play". I'm not planning on going into production, but selling a little soap will help offset the goat expenses.
Oh, and my new soap cutter? Works GREAT. Cuts the logs with ease, 6 bars at a time. The bars are perfectly even, no crumbles, no smearing of the swirling...I LOVE it. No, it's not a Tank....but it's perfect for what I'm doing. It's saved my wrist/elbow a lot of grief - and it's something I should have done before now (once my SIL starting shilling my soap......she grabs the bars as fast as I can make them. :sigh: I'm glad she likes them, but geez - give a girl a chance to perfect her recipes, y'know?)